Gus Van Sant

Gus Green Van Sant Jr.[1] (born July 24, 1952) is an American film director, screenwriter, painter, photographer, musician, and author who has earned acclaim as both an independent and mainstream filmmaker. His films typically deal with themes of marginalized subcultures, in particular homosexuality; as such, Van Sant is considered one of the most prominent auteurs of the New Queer Cinema movement.

Van Sant's early career was devoted to directing television commercials in the Pacific Northwest. He made his feature-length cinematic directorial debut with Mala Noche (1985). His second feature Drugstore Cowboy (1989) was highly acclaimed, and earned Van Sant screenwriting awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Circle and the award for Best Director from the National Society of Film Critics. His following film, My Own Private Idaho (1991), was similarly praised, as was the black comedy To Die For (1995), the drama Good Will Hunting (1997), and the biographical film Milk (2008); for the latter two, Van Sant was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and both films received Best Picture nominations.

In 2003, Van Sant's film about the Columbine High School massacre, Elephant, won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Van Sant also received the festival's Best Director Award that same year, making him one of only two filmmakers—the other being Joel Coen—to win both accolades at the festival in the same year.[2] Though most of Van Sant's other films received favourable reviews, such as Finding Forrester (2000) and Paranoid Park (2007), some of his efforts, such as the art house production Last Days (2005) and the environmental drama Promised Land (2012), have received more mixed reviews from critics, while his adaptation of Tom Robbins's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994), his 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and The Sea of Trees (2015), were critical and commercial failures.

In addition to directing, Van Sant has written the screenplays for several of his earlier works, and is the author of a novel entitled Pink.[3] A book of his photography, called 108 Portraits,[4] has also been published, and he has released two musical albums. He is openly gay and currently lives in Los Feliz, California.[5]

Gus Van Sant
Gus Van Sant Cannes 2015
Gus Green Van Sant Jr.

July 24, 1952 (age 66)
ResidenceLos Feliz, California, U.S.
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, painter, photographer, musician, author
Years active1982–present
Notable work
Drugstore Cowboy, Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Milk, Elephant, Psycho, Finding Forrester

Early life

Van Sant was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Betty (née Seay) and Gus Green Van Sant Sr; Gus's father was a clothing manufacturer and traveling salesman,[1] who rapidly worked his way into middle class prosperity, holding executive marketing positions that included being president of the White Stag Manufacturing Company's Apparel Operation.[6] As a result of his father's job, the family moved continually during Van Sant's childhood.

His paternal family is of partial Dutch origin; the name "Van Sant" is derived from the Dutch name "Van Zandt". The earliest Van Zandt arrived in the New Netherland area in the early 17th century, around what is now New York City.[7]

Van Sant is an alumnus of Darien High School in Darien, Connecticut,[8] and The Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon.[9] One constant in the director's early years was his interest in visual arts (namely, painting and Super-8 filmmaking); while still in school he began making semi-autobiographical shorts costing between 30 and 50 dollars. Van Sant's artistic leanings took him to the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970, where his introduction to various avant-garde directors inspired him to change his major from painting to cinema.[10]


1982–1989: Early career

After spending time in Europe, Van Sant went to Los Angeles in 1976.[11] He secured a job as a production assistant to filmmaker Ken Shapiro, with whom he developed a few ideas, none of which came to fruition. In 1981, Van Sant made Alice in Hollywood, a film about a naïve young actress who goes to Hollywood and abandons her ideals. It was never released. During this period, Van Sant began to spend time observing the denizens of the more down-and-out sections of Hollywood Boulevard. He became fascinated by the existence of this marginalized section of L.A.'s population, especially in context with the more ordinary, prosperous world that surrounded them. Van Sant would repeatedly focus his work on those existing on society's fringes, making his feature film directorial debut Mala Noche.

It was made two years after Van Sant went to New York to work in an advertising agency. He saved $20,000 during his tenure there, enabling him to finance the majority of his tale of doomed love between a gay liquor store clerk and a Mexican immigrant. The film, which was taken from Portland street writer Walt Curtis' semi-autobiographical novella, featured some of the director's hallmarks, notably an unfulfilled romanticism, a dry sense of the absurd, and the refusal to treat homosexuality as something deserving of judgment. Unlike many gay filmmakers, Van Sant—who had long been openly gay—declined to use same-sex relationships as fodder for overtly political statements, although such relationships would frequently appear in his films.

Shot in black-and-white, the film earned Van Sant almost overnight acclaim on the festival circuit, with the Los Angeles Times naming it the year's best independent film.[12] The film's success attracted Hollywood interest, and Van Sant was briefly courted by Universal; the courtship ended after Van Sant pitched a series of project ideas (including what would later become Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho) that the studio declined to take interest in.

Van Sant moved back to Portland, Oregon, where he set up house and began giving life to the ideas rejected by Universal. He directed Drugstore Cowboy about four drug addicts robbing pharmacies to support their habit. The film met with great critical success and revived the career of Matt Dillon.

1990–1995: Indie and arthouse success

Drugstore Cowboy's exploration of the lives of those living on society's outer fringes, as well as its Portland setting, were mirrored in Van Sant's next effort, the similarly acclaimed My Own Private Idaho (1991). Only with the success of Cowboy was Van Sant now given license to make Idaho (a film he had originally pitched but was knocked back several times as the script was deemed 'too risky' by studios). Now New Line Cinema had given Van Sant the green light, he was on a mission to get the Idaho script to his first choices for his two young leads. After months of struggle with agents and managers over the content of the script, Van Sant finally secured River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in the roles of Mike Waters and Scott Favor. Centering around the dealings of two male hustlers (played by Phoenix and Reeves), the film was a compelling examination of unrequited love, alienation, and the concept of family (a concept Van Sant repeatedly explores in his films). The film won him an Independent Spirit Award for his screenplay (he had won the same award for his Drugstore Cowboy screenplay), as well as greater prestige. The film also gained River Phoenix best actor honors at the Venice Film Festival among others. In addition, it helped Reeves—previously best known for his work in the Bill and Ted movies—to get the critical respect that had previously eluded him.

Van Sant's next film, a 1993 adaptation of Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, was an excessive flop, both commercially and critically. Featuring an unusually large budget (for Van Sant, at least) of $8.5 million and a large, eclectic cast including Uma Thurman, John Hurt, Keanu Reeves and a newcomer in the form of River Phoenix's younger sister Rain (at Phoenix's suggestion), the film was worked and then reworked, but the finished product nonetheless resulted in something approaching a significant disaster.

Van Sant's 1995 film To Die For helped to restore his luster. An adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel, the black comedy starred Nicole Kidman as a murderously ambitious weather girl; it also stars Matt Dillon as her hapless husband and, the third Phoenix sibling in as many projects, Joaquin Phoenix, as her equally hapless lover (River had died from a drug overdose a year and half earlier). It was Van Sant's first effort for a major studio (Columbia), and its success paved the way for further projects of the director's choosing. The same year, he served as executive producer for Larry Clark's Kids; it was a fitting assignment, due to both the film's subject matter and the fact that Clark's photographs of junkies had served as reference points for Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy.

1997–2003: Mainstream breakout

In 1997, Van Sant gained mainstream recognition and critical acclaim thanks to Good Will Hunting, which starred and was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The film—about a troubled, blue-collar mathematical genius—was a huge critical and commercial success. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Director for Van Sant. It also won two, including Best Screenplay for Damon and Affleck, and Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Robin Williams, who, in his acceptance speech, referred to Van Sant as "the mellowest man in Hollywood." Van Sant, Damon and Affleck parodied themselves and the film's success in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

The success of Good Will Hunting afforded Van Sant the opportunity to remake the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. As opposed to reinterpreting the 1960 film, Van Sant opted to recreate the film shot-for-shot, in color, with a cast of young Hollywood A-listers. His decision was met with equal parts curiosity, skepticism, and derision from industry insiders and outsiders alike, and the finished result met with a similar reception. It starred Anne Heche, Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore, and met with a negative critical reception and did poorly at the box office.

In 2000, Van Sant directed Finding Forrester, about a high-school student (Rob Brown) from the Bronx unlikely becoming a friend of a crusty, reclusive author (Sean Connery). Critical response was generally positive.[13]

In addition to directing, he devoted considerable energy to releasing two albums and publishing a novel, Pink, which was a thinly veiled exploration of his grief over River Phoenix's death.

2003–present: Return to arthouse cinema

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot - Press Conference
Gus Van Sant and Joaquin Phoenix at the press conference of Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot. Berlinale 2018.

Van Sant traveled to the deserts of Argentina, Utah, and Death Valley for the production of 2002's Gerry, a loosely devised, largely improvised feature in which stars Matt Damon and Casey Affleck—both playing characters named Gerry—wander through the desert, discussing Wheel of Fortune, video games, and nothing in particular. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

It took Gerry over a year to make it to theaters, in which time Van Sant began production on his next film, Elephant. Approached by HBO and producer Diane Keaton to craft a fictional film based on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the director chose to shoot in his hometown of Portland, employing dozens of untrained, teen actors. As well as melding improvisational long takes like those in Gerry with Harris Savides' fluid camerawork, the film was also influenced by Alan Clarke's 1989 film of the same name (see Elephant). The finished film provoked strong reactions from audiences at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. At the Cannes festival, the jury awarded Elephant with their top prize, the Palme d'Or, and Van Sant with his first Best Director statue from the festival.[2] The success of Elephant led Van Sant to show the U.S. premiere of Elephant as a fundraiser for Outside In, an organization working to help youth living on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

In 2005, Van Sant released Last Days, the final component of what he refers to as his "Death Trilogy," (the other parts being Gerry and Elephant). It is a fictionalized account of what happened to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in the days leading up to his death. In 2006, Van Sant began work on Paranoid Park based on the book by Blake Nelson, about a skateboarding teenager who accidentally causes someone's death. The film was released in Europe in February 2008. He also directed the "Le Marais" segment of the omnibus film Paris, je t'aime.

Released in 2008, Van Sant's Milk is a biopic of openly gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978 and is played by Sean Penn in the movie. The film received eight Oscar nominations at the 81st Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning two for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Penn and Best Original Screenplay for writer Dustin Lance Black. Van Sant was nominated for Best Director.[14][15] Van Sant later stated that his experience with Sean Penn on the film was "amazing".[16]

His 2011 project Restless[17] was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and starred Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper, the son of actor Dennis Hopper.[18][19]

Van Sant's film, Promised Land, was released on December 28, 2012.[20] The film stars Frances McDormand, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski—the latter two co-wrote the screenplay based on a story by Dave Eggers. Filmed in April 2012, the production company, Focus Features, selected the release date so that the film is eligible to qualify for awards consideration.[21][22]

Following Promised Land, Van Sant directed a film titled Sea of Trees, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe. The film tells the story of a man who travels to the infamous suicide forest in Japan to kill himself, only to encounter another man wishing to kill himself as well, with whom he then embarks on a "spiritual journey."[23] The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival but was met with harsh critical reception at the Cannes, being booed and laughed at.[24][25]

In December 2016, it was announced Van Sant would direct Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, a biopic about cartoonist John Callahan, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill, Jack Black and Mark Webber.[26][27][28][29] Principal photography began in March 2017.[30][31]

Other work

Van Sant released two musical albums: Gus Van Sant and 18 Songs About Golf. The Broken Social Scene song, "Art House Director", is supposedly about himself, a connection discussed by a Singaporean fan on the internet.[32] Van Sant played himself in episodes of the HBO series Entourage and the IFC series Portlandia.

Van Sant directed the pilot for the Starz television program Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer. Van Sant went onto The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast to discuss filmmaking, writing, film history and their collaborations that never got made (The Golden Suicides) and the one that did (The Canyons).[33]


The moving image collection of Gus Van Sant is held at the Academy Film Archive.[34]

Awards and nominations


Feature films

Year Film Director Writer Producer Grossed Rotten Tomatoes
1985 Mala Noche Yes Yes Yes 95%
1989 Drugstore Cowboy Yes Yes $4,729,352 100%
1991 My Own Private Idaho Yes Yes $6,401,336 82%
1993 Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Yes Yes Yes $1,708,873 21%
1995 To Die For Yes $21,284,514 87%
1997 Good Will Hunting Yes $225,933,435 97%
1998 Psycho Yes Yes $37,141,130 37%
2000 Finding Forrester Yes $80,701,064 74%
2002 Gerry Yes Yes $236,266 61%
2003 Elephant Yes Yes $10,020,543 73%
2005 Last Days Yes Yes Yes $2,456,454 57%
2007 Paranoid Park Yes Yes $4,545,747 76%
2008 Milk Yes $54,586,584 94%
2011 Restless Yes Yes $163,265 35%
2012 Promised Land Yes $8,138,788 51%
2015 The Sea of Trees Yes $825,577 11%
2018 Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot Yes Yes $2,279,679 75%

Short films

  • Fun with a Bloodroot (1967) 2 min 20 sec, 8 mm color
  • The Happy Organ (1971) 20 min, 16 mm black and white
  • Little Johnny (1972) 40 sec, 16 mm black and white
  • 1/2 of a Telephone Conversation (1973) 2 min, 16 mm black and white
  • Late Morning Start (1975) 28 min, 16 mm color
  • The Discipline of DE (1978) 9 min, 16 mm black and white, adaptation of William S. Burroughs' short story, narrated by Ken Shapiro
  • Alice in Hollywood (1981) 45 min, 16 mm color
  • My Friend (1982) 3 min, 16 mm black and white
  • Where'd She Go? (1983) 3 min, 16 mm color
  • Nightmare Typhoon (1984) 9 min, 16 mm black and white
  • My New Friend (1984) 3 min, 16 mm color
  • Ken Death Gets Out of Jail (1985) 3 min, 16 mm black and white
  • Five Ways to Kill Yourself (1986) 3 min, 16 mm black and white
  • Thanksgiving Prayer (1991) 2 min, 35 mm color, written by and starring William S. Burroughs
  • Four Boys in a Volvo (1996) 4min, color
  • Paris, je t'aime (2006) segment "Le Marais"
  • To Each His Own Cinema (2007) segment "First Kiss" (3 min)
  • 8 (2008) segment "Mansion on the Hill"[39]

Music videos


Executive producer



  • The Devil You Know (2015) – Director, executive producer
  • When We Rise (2017), an American miniseries written by Dustin Lance Black – Director of first two-hour part

See also


  1. ^ a b film reference (2012). "Gus Van Sant Biography (1952?-)". film reference. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Festival de Cannes: Elephant". Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  3. ^ Gus Van Sant, Pink, Faber & Faber, 1998, ISBN 0-385-49353-3
  4. ^ Gus Van Sant, 108 Portraits, Twin Palms Pub., 1993, ISBN 0-944092-22-5
  5. ^ Brandao, Rodrigo (November 11, 2015). "Interview with Openly Gay Filmmaker Gus Van Sant". Archived from the original on August 13, 2016.
  6. ^ "Changes in Management Disclosed by White Stag". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. December 5, 1969. Section 1, p. 39.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Darien High School". Public School Review. Public School Review. 2003–2012. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  9. ^ "Gus Van Sant- Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo!, Inc. 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  10. ^ Marx, Rebecca Flint. "Gus van Sant Biography". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Gus van Sant". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Gus Van Sant : Biography". Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  13. ^ "Finding Forrester". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
  14. ^ Andy Towle (February 23, 2009). "Milk Picks Up Two Big Oscars as Slumdog Dominates Academy Awards". Towleroad. Towleroad. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  15. ^ Greg Hernandez (January 22, 2009). ""Milk" gets EIGHT Academy Award nominations..." Out in Hollywood with Greg Hernandez. Los Angeles Newspaper group. Archived from the original on March 5, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  16. ^ Gus Van Sant (2010). "MADONNA". Interview, Inc. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  17. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (April 13, 2011). "Gus Van Sant's 'Restless' to Open Cannes Un Certain Regard". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  18. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  19. ^ Fleming, Mike (February 1, 2012). "Focus, Participant Acquire Matt Damon/John Krasinski Film; Gus Van Sant Directing". Deadline Hollywood.
  20. ^ Gerhardt, Tina (December 31, 2012). "Matt Damon Exposes Fracking in Promised Land". The Progressive.
  21. ^ Eric Eisenberg (August 23, 2012). "Gus Van Sant's Promised Land, Starring Matt Damon, Gets A Release Date". Cinema Blend. Cinema Blend LLC. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  22. ^ Matt Goldberg (August 23, 2012). "Gus Van Sant's PROMISED LAND Gets into Awards Race; Release Dates Announced for DreamWorks Animation Pictures". IndieClick Film Network. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  23. ^ Kit, Boris. "Matthew McConaughey to Star in Gus Van Sant's 'Sea of Trees'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  24. ^ "Gus Van Sant's 'Sea of Trees' Booed at Cannes Premiere". Variety. May 15, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  25. ^ Reinstein, Mara (May 15, 2015). "Matthew McConaughey's Film The Sea of Trees Booed, Laughed at During Cannes Film Festival". Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  26. ^ Kroll, Justin (November 29, 2016). "Joaquin Phoenix, Gus Van Sant Eye Reunion for Biopic on Famed Cartoonist John Callahan (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  27. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 16, 2016). "Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara in Talks to Join Joaquin Phoenix in Gus Van Sant Film (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  28. ^ McNary, Dave (February 15, 2017). "Jack Black in Talks to Join Joaquin Phoenix in Gus Van Sant's John Callahan Biopic". Variety. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  29. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 2, 2017). "Mark Webber Joins Joaquin Phoenix in Gus Van Sant's John Callahan Biopic". Variety. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  30. ^ "Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot". My Entertainment World. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  31. ^ June, Sophia (February 21, 2017). "Cast of Gus Van Sant's John Callahan Movie, Including Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix Came to Portland Last Weekend". Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  32. ^ Mayo Martin (July 29, 2010). "Broken Social Scene hangs out with local bands! The latter left speechless!". Poparazzi. Poparazzi. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  33. ^ "Bret Easton Ellis Podcast". Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  34. ^ "Gus Van Sant Collection". Academy Film Archive.
  36. ^ "Berlinale: 1998 Prize Winners". Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  37. ^ Festival de Cannes (2005). "LAST DAYS". Festival de Cannes. Festival de Cannes. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  38. ^ Festival de Cannes (2007). "PARANOID PARK". Festival de Cannes. Festival de Cannes. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  39. ^ Unknown. "Biography". Gus Van Sant. Geocities. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  40. ^ Alex S. Garcia (1998–2012). "Gus van Sant". Alex S. Garcia. Retrieved August 17, 2012. Note that Chris Isaak's Solitary Man (1993) was not directed by Van Sant but by Larry Clark.

Further reading

  • Weber, Christian (2015). Gus Van Sant: Looking for a Place Like Home (PhD thesis, University of Mainz). Berlin: Bertz + Fischer. ISBN 978-3-86505-321-3.

External links

8 (2008 film)

8 is an anthology film consisting of eight short films centered on the eight Millennium Development Goals.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot is a 2018 American comedy-drama film based upon the memoir of the same name by John Callahan. Gus Van Sant wrote the screen adaptation and directed the film. The cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black, and follows a recently paralyzed alcoholic who finds a passion for drawing off-color newspaper cartoons.

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2018, and was released on July 13, 2018, by Amazon Studios.

Drugstore Cowboy

Drugstore Cowboy is a 1989 American crime drama film directed by the American filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, and based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogle, the film stars Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham and William S. Burroughs. It was Van Sant's second film as director.

At the time the film was made, the source novel by Fogle was unpublished. It was later published in 1990, by which time Fogle had been released from prison. Fogle, like the characters in his story, was a long-time drug user and dealer.

The film was a critical success and currently holds a rare 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8/10 based on 27 reviews.

Elephant (2003 film)

Elephant is a 2003 American drama film written, directed, and edited by Gus Van Sant. It takes place in the fictional Watt High School, in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and chronicles the events surrounding a school shooting, based in part on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The film begins a short time before the shooting occurs, following the lives of several characters both in and out of school, who are unaware of what is about to unfold. The film stars mostly new or non-professional actors, including John Robinson, Alex Frost, and Eric Deulen.

Elephant is the second film in Van Sant's "Death Trilogy"—the first is Gerry (2002) and the third Last Days (2005)—all three of which are based on actual events.

Elephant was generally praised by critics and received the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, in which Patrice Chéreau was the head of the jury. The film was controversial for its subject matter and allegations of influence on the Red Lake shootings.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (film)

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a 1993 American romantic comedy-drama film based on Tom Robbins' 1976 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Gus Van Sant (credited as Gus Van Sant, Jr.) and starred an ensemble cast led by Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, Angie Dickinson, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Keanu Reeves, John Hurt, and Rain Phoenix. Robbins himself was the narrator. The soundtrack was sung entirely by k.d. lang. The film was dedicated to the late River Phoenix.

Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester is a 2000 American drama film written by Mike Rich and directed by Gus Van Sant. In the film, a black teenager, Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), is invited to attend a prestigious private high school. By chance, Jamal befriends a reclusive writer, William Forrester (Sean Connery), through whom he refines his talent for writing and comes to terms with his identity. Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Pitt, Glenn Fitzgerald, April Grace, Busta Rhymes and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet Charles Bernstein star in supporting roles.

Although the film is not based on a true story, film critics have compared the character portrayed by Connery with real life writer J. D. Salinger. Connery later acknowledged that the inspiration for his role was indeed Salinger.

Gerry (2002 film)

Gerry is a 2002 American drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant and starring and co-written by Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. It is the first film of Van Sant's "Death Trilogy", three films based on deaths that occurred in real life, and is succeeded by Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005).

Gerry is frequently cited as an example of non-narrative cinema.

Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American drama film, directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston janitor Will Hunting, an unrecognized genius who, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement after assaulting a police officer, becomes a client of a therapist and studies advanced mathematics with a renowned professor. Through his therapy sessions, Will re-evaluates his relationships with his best friend, his girlfriend, and himself, facing the significant task of confronting his past and thinking about his future.

The film grossed over $225 million during its theatrical run, from a $10 million budget. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, and won two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon.

In 2014, it was ranked at number 53 in The Hollywood Reporter's "100 Favorite Films" list.

Independent Spirit Award for Best Director

The Film Independent's Spirit Award for Best Director is one of the annual Independent Spirit Awards.

Last Days (2005 film)

Last Days is a 2005 American drama film directed, produced and written by Gus Van Sant. It is a fictionalized account of the last days of a musician, loosely based on Kurt Cobain. It was released to theaters in the United States on July 22, 2005 and was produced by HBO. The film stars Michael Pitt as the character Blake, based on Kurt Cobain. Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Patrick Green and Thadeus A. Thomas also star in the film. This is the first film from Picturehouse, a joint venture between Time Warner's New Line Cinema and HBO Films subsidiaries to release art house, independent, foreign, and documentary films. The film received mixed reviews from critics. Though meant to be based on Kurt Cobain, it contradicts the factual evidence of Cobain's final days.

Mala Noche

Mala Noche (also known as Bad Night) is a 1986 American drama film based on Walt Curtis' autobiographical novel. It marked Gus Van Sant's directorial film debut, and stars Tim Streeter, Doug Cooeyate, Ray Monge, and Nyla McCarthy. The film was shot in 16 mm with black-and-white at Portland, Oregon.

My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho is a 1991 American independent adventure drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V, and starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. The story follows two friends, Mike and Scott, as they embark on a journey of personal discovery that takes them from Portland, Oregon to Mike's hometown in Idaho, and then to Rome in search of Mike's mother.

Van Sant originally wrote the screenplay in the 1970s, but discarded it after reading John Rechy's 1963 novel City of Night and concluding that Rechy's treatment of the subject of street hustlers was better than his own. Over the years, Van Sant rewrote the script, which comprised two stories: that of Mike and the search for his mother, and Scott's story as a modern update of the Henry IV plays. Van Sant had difficulty getting Hollywood financing, and at one point considered making the film on a minuscule budget with a cast of actual street kids. After Van Sant sent copies of his script to Reeves and then Reeves showed it to Phoenix, both agreed to star in the film on each other's behalf.

My Own Private Idaho had its premiere at the 48th Venice International Film Festival, and received largely positive reviews from critics including Roger Ebert and those of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. The film was a moderate financial success, grossing over $6.4 million in North America, which was above its estimated budget of $2.5 million. Phoenix received several awards for his performance in the film, including the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, Best Male Lead from the Independent Spirit Awards, and Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics.

My Own Private Idaho is considered a landmark film in the New Queer Cinema movement, an early 1990s movement in queer-themed independent filmmaking. Since its 1991 release, the film has grown in popularity and been deemed as a cult classic, especially among queer audiences. The film is notable for its then-taboo subject matter and avant-garde style.

New York International Children's Film Festival

New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) is an annual Oscar-qualifying film festival "founded in 1997 to support the creation and dissemination of thoughtful, provocative, and intelligent film for children and teens ages 3-18." The Festival experience cultivates an appreciation for the arts, encourages active, discerning viewing, and stimulates lively discussion among peers, families, and the film community. In addition to the annual four-weekend event in March, the Festival presents year-round programming and filmmaking camps in New York City, satellite festivals in Miami, FL and Westchester, NY, and a touring program at independent theaters and cultural institutions nationwide.

Paranoid Park (film)

Paranoid Park is a 2007 American-French drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Blake Nelson and takes place in Portland, Oregon. It's the story of a teenage skateboarder (played by Gabe Nevins) set against the backdrop of a police investigation into a mysterious death.

Van Sant wrote the draft script in two days after reading and deciding to adapt Nelson's novel. To cast the film's youths, Van Sant posted an open casting call on social networking website MySpace inviting teenagers to audition for speaking roles, as well as experienced skateboarders to act as extras. Filming began in October 2006 and took place at various locations in and around Portland. Scenes at the fictional Eastside Skatepark were filmed at Burnside Skatepark which was, like Eastside, built illegally by skateboarders.

Paranoid Park premiered on May 21, at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was given a limited release on March 7, 2008. It grossed over US$4,481,000 from its $3 million budget. The film received mostly positive reviews; some critics praised the direction and cinematography in particular, though others believed the film to be overly stylized and slow paced. It won one Independent Spirit Award, two Boston Society of Film Critics awards and the Cannes Film Festival's special 60th anniversary prize.

Promised Land (2012 film)

Promised Land is a 2012 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt and Hal Holbrook. The screenplay is written by Damon and Krasinski based on a story by Dave Eggers. Promised Land follows two petroleum landmen who visit a rural town in an attempt to buy drilling rights from the local residents.

Damon was originally attached to direct the film, but he was replaced by Van Sant. Filming took place mainly in Pittsburgh from early to mid-2012. During filming and afterward, the film's highlighting of the resource extraction process hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking," emerged as a topic of debate.

The film had a limited release in the United States on December 28, 2012 and followed with a nationwide expansion on January 4, 2013. The film had its international premiere and received Special Mention Award at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2013. It received mixed reviews from critics, although the National Board of Review named it one of the top ten films of 2012, and was a box office bomb, grossing just $8 million against a $15 million budget.

Psycho (1998 film)

Psycho is a 1998 American horror film produced and directed by Gus Van Sant for Universal Pictures and starring Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy and Anne Heche in leading and supporting roles. It is a modern remake of the 1960 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, in which an embezzler arrives at an old motel run by an insane killer named Norman Bates. Both films are adapted from Robert Bloch's 1959 novel of the same name.

Although this version is in color, features a different cast, and is set in 1998, it is closer to a shot-for-shot remake than most remakes, often copying Hitchcock's camera movements and editing, and Joseph Stefano's script is mostly carried over. Bernard Herrmann's musical score is reused as well, though with a new arrangement by Danny Elfman and recorded in stereo. Some changes are introduced to account for advances in technology since the original film and to make the content more explicit. Murder sequences are also intercut with surreal dream images. The film was both a critical and commercial failure. It received three Golden Raspberry nominations and won in the categories of Worst Remake, and Worst Director. Heche was nominated for Worst Actress.

Restless (2011 film)

Restless is a 2011 American romantic drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Jason Lew. It stars Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska. Shot in Portland, Oregon, United States, and produced by Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer for Sony Pictures Classics and Imagine Entertainment, it was released on September 16, 2011. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival on May 12.

The Sea of Trees

The Sea of Trees is a 2015 American drama mystery film directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Chris Sparling. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton and Jordan Gavaris.

The film is about an American man who attempts suicide in Mount Fuji's "Suicide Forest" where he meets a Japanese man who is there for the same reason. Principal photography began on July 28, 2014, in Foxborough, Massachusetts; the production moved to Japan in September of the same year. It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.The film was released on August 26, 2016, by A24.

To Die For

To Die For is a 1995 criminal comedy-drama film, made in a mockumentary format, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Buck Henry, based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, which in turn was inspired by the story of Pamela Smart. It stars Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, and Joaquin Phoenix. Major supporting roles feature Illeana Douglas, Wayne Knight, Casey Affleck, Kurtwood Smith, Dan Hedaya, and Alison Folland. Kidman was nominated for a BAFTA and won a Golden Globe Award and a Best Actress Award at the 1st Empire Awards for her performance. Her character has been described as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder in the scientific journal BMC Psychiatry.The film includes cameos by George Segal, David Cronenberg, author Maynard, and screenwriter Henry. It features original music by Danny Elfman.

Films directed by Gus Van Sant
Awards for Gus Van Sant

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